28 nm from Isla Parida to Isla Ventana where we met Bill and Ariana
After 3 days in Ensenada Varadero, we decided it was time to leave the
Isla Parida group and head over to the mainland. Our destination
was a little island called Ventana, just off of Isla Brava, next to
the little fishing village of Boca Chica. This gulf marks one of the
entrances to Pedregal, a port of entry with a marina and fuel dock,
and the port for David, the second largest city in Panama.
We were not sure if we were going to try to take Rhapsody up the channel
to Pedregal or not. It's a rather shallow, winding channel and
we'd heard of boats that have gone aground multiple times trying
to get to Pedregal, so if possible, we'd rather lay off outside.
From the charts, Ventana looked to be well protected and an easy
in-and-out should we decide to make it a short visit.
So, on Friday, June 20th, we got up easy and by 9:00 a.m.
had removed and stowed the rain tarps, tied the dinghy in a towing position
and were ready to weigh anchor for the short trip. As we were now at the
southeastern side of this island, we decided to continue our way around
clockwise, completing our circumnavigation of Isla Parida.
We made our way out of Ensenada Varadero, rounded the islet of Pardidita,
and put up the sails once we were safely off the reefs at the south
side of Parida. We haven't been doing much pure sailing, so it felt good
when a breeze came up and we were able to turn the motor off and
feel Rhapsody moving again under the power of the wind.
As we rounded the island, the wind moved directly behind us
so we went from a reach to a run and eventually decided
to go wing-and-wing directly downwind. It wasn't really fast
sailing, perhaps 4-5 knots in 8-10 knots of wind, but it was
satisfying. At one point, I decided to crawl out into the dinghy
which we were towing behind us and take pictures of Rhapsody
with her sails in full bloom.
As we passed Isla San Jose we put away the sails and using
charts, radar, and binoculars, picked out the narrow entrance
between the reefs to Isla Ventana. Once we rounded the corner
of the island, whatever wind-chop and sea swell there was diminished
and we found ourselves in a calm anchorage in the lee of the little
island. We turned a few circles looking for a good place to drop the
hook, and finally settled on a spot about 100 yards from a white
house built on a small beach on the island. We dropped the hook
and put Rhapsody back into living mode, resetting the rain tarps,
covering the instruments, entering info into the log, and so on.
Since it had taken us nearly 5 hours to sail the 25 nm or so
from Isla Parida, it was now nearly 3:00 in the afternoon, and
a light afternoon rain had begun. We decided to belay any visits to shore
until the next day, and spent the rest of that afternoon and
evening on board Rhapsody, having cocktails, strumming the guitar,
having dinner, and reading books. We watched and waved as the
people onshore went for an afternoon swim and sat outside on their
veranda, having cocktails as the sun set.
The next morning, after awaking and having our coffee, getting
our daily weather reports over the shortwave and checking into
the Panama Pacific Net on the SSB, we took the dinghy ashore
to meet the folks there. With a wave, the man, Bill, directed
us to a good landing spot on the beach and after we had tied
the dinghy up to a nearby tree, walked with us to the house
giving us an introduction.
They are Bill and Ariana. His actual name is Guillermo Tribaldos,
which translates to William in English, hence the nickname Bill.
In short order we learned that their family has owned Isla Ventana
for many generations, going back to Bill's grandfather,
who purchased the island in the 1800's. Bill told us the
fascinating story of how his grandfather had started the
family distillation business, making "Carta Vieja" rum, alcohol, wine, and as a
side effect, vinegar. The family business was passed from generation
to generation, and in due time Bill was born and raised in David,
A series of events led to Bill being educated in the United States,
attending prepschools and college in New Jersey & Indiana, and becoming a U.S. citizen.
He became an industrial engineer, acquiring a wealth of knowledge
about the processes involved with the manufacturing and distillation
of alcohol and vinegar. After a stint working with the Carter
administration studying the feasibility of creating fuel alcohol
from sugar cane was ended when Reagan came to office, he found himself starting
a vinegar plant in Louisiana. It turns out that his company,
Louisiana Speciality Products, in Abbeville, Louisiana, provides
all of the vinegar used in the many special hot sauces produced in
the region, including the McIlhenny Co's famous Tabasco brand sauce,
as well as many others that you may be familiar with. If it's made
in Louisiana, it's got his vinegar in it!